MPSA Member Profile: Rebecca Dew

Dr. Rebecca Dew is an Independent Researcher based in Florida, where she can be reached at Academia.edu or her personal website, or followed on Twitter @beccadew. Additionally, Dew is a recent participant in the Wikipedia Fellows program. Here we ask her a few questions about her experiences:

MPSA-MemberProfile-RebeccaDew

What was your role as a Wikipedia Fellow?
Volunteering as a Wikipedia Fellow meant communicating with a dozen odd scholars and professionals in academia over the Zoom platform and perhaps even the international date line, and this in combination with whatever academic or professional concerns we also held at the time. I worked on articles concerning activism, authority, and a sprinkling of other topics of interest and relevance to me and my research objectives. I also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the work of others and even co-author a Wikipedia article with another cohort fellow.

What surprised you most about your experience working with Wikipedia?
I would say the level of participation and contribution from other editors and authors was a large part of what made participating in the Wikipedia project both surprising and helpful. One’s attitude when approaching a solo-authored or co-authored paper for a peer-reviewed journal is, as a rule, “this is my work” or “our work” and it is well-documented, referenced, and it is going to stay that way. The attitude one must take in approaching a Wikipedia article is something more like “this is what we now know” and the part I play is limited, interactive, and modifiable. Writers and editors on Wikipedia are doing what they can to contribute what they know, then step back and watch as others contribute what they know. The feel is different, and so is the process. It is rewarding, but it is rewarding in a rather different way—an unfinished, adaptive sort of way. I have written more about this in a blog post about my experience.

Perhaps the most exciting or challenging quality of striving and at times struggling to be a dedicated intellectual in the twenty-first century is similar to what it’s like serving as a Wikipedia editor, careening through the digital and virtual options we have for gelatinizing and sharing our findings, our hypotheses, and our minds. Like almost everything else these days, our options appear to be virtually limitless, or at the very least, virtual. But like overwhelmingly everyone these days, one cannot be a happy or fulfilled academic without taking every one of these innovative options with a healthy grain of realism, skepticism, and salty and good-humored good sense. I have found that with working with Wikipedia and with other Wikipedians, the most important thing to remember is the significant part that the person who is doing the writing plays in making the ever-unfinished product, the Wikipedia articles that we read. Wikipedia is as accurate and effective as the people who write it and read it allow their contributions and interpretations to be. Wikipedia provides a blend of the features of knowledge and accessibility; I consider it a happy privilege to be someone who can in some way contribute to both.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects. The most pressing of these would be two monographs, one on the political thought of Hannah Arendt in relation to Karl Jaspers, and the other on activism and its representation in relation to the history of political thought. Other projects include critiques of Habermas, Heidegger, and Marx, and a flattering assessment of the work of Michael Oakeshott. There is a co-authored paper that I am working on with a friend of mine in Australia. I also like keeping my hand in Wikipedia, and I enjoy teaching. There are a few other books and articles churning over in my mind; I find that’s the way with many ideas. I’d rather live thinking of much than think of thinking less.

Words of wisdom for first-time MPSA conference attendees about visiting Chicago? While in Chicago, do what the Chicagoans do. I cannot emphasize enough the priority of enjoying where you are while you are there—especially when you go to all of the trouble of flying to be there. I stayed downtown to explore the venue and as much of its surrounding features as possible. Among my favorite experiences beyond the conference itself were visiting the Cloud Gate, the various art displays, and Jay Pritzker Pavilion at and around Millennium Park, walking near the Chicago Riverwalk, crossing DuSable Bridge and spotting Trump Tower close to sunset at the river’s edge. I also enjoyed sampling a variety of the city’s local foods and the many options of eating around the corner of the conference. I do recommend eating at the conference venue itself, with its varieties of classic, international, and vegan fare, and bumping into all sorts of academic guests. In my visit to Vanderbilt University earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to meet with several faculty and discuss my work on Hannah Arendt there. But it was not until MPSA 2018 that I had the opportunity to meet with Assistant Professor Allison Anoll and discuss the correlation of her work on prisons, race, and participatory norms to mine on the carceral state, violence, and what can be considered carceral spillover. I also had some fantastic opportunities to swap research ideas and stories with other established and early career researchers from Baylor, Stanford, and even the University of Chicago. During the conference, I stayed with a fellow researcher based at the University of Chicago who, in fact, flew into the conference on the same flight as I did. Getting to know some locals can make all of the difference in what can otherwise feel like a new and unfamiliar world.

Speaking of opportunities around travel. Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
I find this question difficult to answer. I am tempted to respond with Hawai’i; I lived there for four years, and I have always thought that the best way to get to know someplace and get a feel for its culture is to live there. Perhaps that is one reason why I followed my own advice and moved to Brisbane, Australia, where I completed my PhD at the University of Queensland, a superior research university where I really had one of the best academic and professional experiences to be imagined. In terms of traveling to exotic locations, Fiji or New Zealand’s Bay of Islands would rate highly, although I have not spent enough time at either to state which I would prefer best.

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

MPSA Membership – Get a FREE trial this weekend!

MPSA Trial Membership Weekend (1)
Members of the discipline are invited to try a complimentary MPSA Membership through Monday, September 3, 2018 (Labor Day), just by signing up at www.MPSAnet.org.

As MPSA members, political science scholars from every state and more than 100 countries have access to a wide range of benefits and services.

Benefits available for preview in your trial membership include:

  • Online access to the current volume of the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), as well as a searchable database of AJPS volumes back to 2003.
  • Downloadable audio files of roundtable discussions presented at MPSA Annual Conferences going all the way back to 2007.
  • Major discounts on JPASS: Your personal access plan to a digital library of more than 1,500 academic journals on JSTOR.
  • And position listings at MPSAnet.org/OpenPositions

Create an account (or sign in to your existing account) and look for gold JOIN/RENEW button at www.MPSAnet.org and select “MPSA Trial Membership – Labor Day Weekend 2018” for immediate access.

Questions about MPSA Membership?  Please stop by our booth at APSA (#235) or email mpsainfo@mpsanet.org.

MPSA Member Profile: Kevin R. Anderson

Kevin Anderson, EIU Political Science


 

Kevin R. Anderson is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University where he teaches courses in American government, political theory and African American politics. Anderson was recently honored as the 2018 Distinguished Faculty member for the Eastern Illinois University Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College.

Here we ask him a few questions about his experiences:

Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
The most influential scholar in terms of my research and teaching is Adolph Reed Jr. I first met him as an undergraduate at the Ralph Bunche Institute and his insights into race and American Political Thought helped shaped the questions that I came to explore in Graduate School. The nuance of his perspective on urban politics, African American Electoral Politics and African American Political Thought (showcasing democratic impulses within minority groups) inspired me to think of the differences among African Americans as essential to understanding political behavior across groups. This insight became the foundation of my dissertation, my first book, and continues to provoke research questions that I seek to answer.

Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated?
My writing process is to begin with a central question and then commit to working everyday until I believe I have covered every aspect of that first question. Once I review the literature, I try to start with a series of smaller questions that I think contribute to the research question and then I start writing at the same time of the day (early afternoon), on the same computer, and for the same amount of time (approximately two hours) in order to develop a routine. I find that this method tends to keep me consistently thinking about the research and focused on getting as much of it written as possible.

Words of wisdom for first-time MPSA conference attendees?
My advice to first-time attendees at the MPSA? Feel free to explore panels and talks that you are curious about beyond your specific area of interest. Listening to scholars presenting and debating research in a subfield is not only illuminating but it can spark insights into your own research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and participate in the discussions, as they help to establish the context of the research presented and give you a guide to understanding the essential questions that contemporary research is trying to answer.

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

Q&A with Emily Farris re: The TCU Justice Journey

MPSA member Emily Farris is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, TX where she and a colleague run an interdisciplinary civil rights course and an annual Spring Break bus tour called the Justice Journey. Here we ask her a few questions about her experience and perspective:

Q: What prompted the Justice Journey series overall and how did the new Latino/a Civil Rights Struggle Justice Journey come about?

Your TCU Justice Journey professors, Dr. Emily and Dr. Max, are excited to be in Crystal City: spinach capitol of the world and home to the 1969 walk out in the Chicano Movement.
Your TCU Justice Journey professors, Dr. Emily and Dr. Max, are excited to be in Crystal City: spinach capitol of the world and home to the 1969 walk out in the Chicano Movement. (TCU Justice Journey on Facebook – Used with permission)

A: Beginning in 2011, Professor Max Krochmal in partnership with the Office of Community Engagement and partners in Inclusiveness & Intercultural Services developed a social justice-oriented educational tour. The TCU Justice Journey annually brings 20 students to places throughout the South important to the civil rights movements. When I joined TCU, I became involved with the Tour, and we paired the tour with for a credit course, cross-listed between History and Political Science. And in Spring 2017, the Justice Journey was expanded to alternate focus in different years between the African American civil rights movement and the Chicano/a civil rights movement and immigrant rights.

We believe the new addition of the tour and class focused on the Chicano/a Movement and immigrant rights is one of the first of its kind – while many groups and schools across the U.S. take trips through the south to explore the African American civil rights movement, few (if any) do a similar Latino civil rights tour in south Texas. This past Spring, the tour focused on South Texas, with stops in Austin, San Antonio, Crystal City and McAllen. Students had the opportunity to interact with and learn from the local organizers who built the civil rights movement on the ground as well as activists and politicians in present-day campaigns for justice.

Q: With involvement from multiple partners, how was the content and the (literal) course of the trip determined?
A: The course is a collaborative effort every year. We meet regularly throughout the year to plan the trip and the course, with each year being different from the next. For instance, in 2015, we planned the trip around the historic 50th anniversary march in Selma, with additional stops in Jackson, Birmingham, and Nashville. Last year was the first trip focused on the Chicano/a Movement, which developed out of our shared research interests of Latino/a history and politics. This upcoming year will likely center around Memphis, given the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death.

Q: What makes the content of these trips different than regular historical tours?
A: Although the trip includes visits to historic sites and museums, it goes far beyond ordinary heritage tourism. The trip features panel discussions with grassroots movement activists, critical conversations and reflection sessions on race and racism (and other forms of oppression), introductory lessons on community organizing and the origins of social movements, and –most importantly– training in and examples of group-centered or collective leadership models. A pilgrimage to hallowed locales in American history and a classroom on wheels, the Civil Rights Bus Tour allows students to learn from the past in order to change the future.

TCU Justice Journey after a great day with La Union del Pueblo Entero! (TCU Justice Journey on Facebook - Used with permission)
TCU Justice Journey after a great day with La Union del Pueblo Entero! (TCU Justice Journey on Facebook – Used with permission)

Q: What kind of grants/funding supports the project and/or the students?
A: The trip is run at no cost to the students – it is fully funded through Student Affairs and AddRan college through the Political Science and History departments. It is also part of the newest major and minor on campus in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.

Q: How are students selected for the program?
A: Students apply in mid-Fall and are selected based on their interest in the material.

Q: What materials do you assign for study prior to the trip? How do you involve the local community and/or the affected community in your course?
A: Back in the classroom, the associated courses survey the history of the modern African American and Chicano/a civil and immigration rights movement and explore modern day politics and policy as ways to understand the nature of social movements and the role of grassroots activism in the struggle for social justice, past and present in the United States. Prior to the trip, we focus mostly on the history of the movements, and after the trip we try to engage that history with modern day efforts in the struggle for social justice. In addition to traditional assignments, students complete work and research that engages them in the community. In Spring 2017, students organized a panel discussion with local community members about their Justice Journey trip, registered voters and participated in get out the vote activities in historically underrepresented areas throughout the community, and researched community engaged projects on modern day social justice issues.

Q: How did you personally get involved in this project?
A: I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and yet, if it wasn’t for my 8th grade English teacher who dared to go off the curriculum and teach us about the Civil Rights Movement, I may have never learned the history of my own city. Since then, I’ve always been fascinated by local communities’ histories and politics and have been driven by the desire to make politics a more inclusive place. When I came to TCU and became friends with Max, I was invited to join the project, given our overlapping teaching and research interests.

Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
A: My mother was a local journalist and involved in local politics when I was growing up. She served as an example on how a regular citizen could work to make our community a better, more just place – if it wasn’t for her, I might have ended up a lawyer.

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

TCU Justice Journey Flier